There has been a lot going on in the government relations world in the last couple of weeks. On Wednesday the 31st, I represented the GNCC at the budget consultation session in St. Catharines, providing preliminary results from our business budget survey and recommendations to the budget team. The survey is still currently open, and I welcome your input. We will be bringing the results to all the municipal governments in Niagara once it is complete, but the more people complete it, the better our advocacy will be. Our preliminary recommendations were to prioritize economic development, public transit, and built infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks. Businesses who responded to the survey overwhelmingly indicated that property taxes were not a factor in their decision to do business in their municipality, and that they vastly preferred that infrastructure expenses be paid now to save money in the long-term rather than being deferred to lower taxes in the short-term. We therefore advised that the business community is happy to pay its property taxes – so long as the revenue is spent wisely and in aid of economic development and prosperity.
We also presented our policy resolutions to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s policy committees for consideration at this year’s AGM. Every year, the Canadian Chamber invites regional chambers to submit these resolutions, and those approved at the AGM will become the Canadian Chamber’s playbook for the next year’s advocacy work. As one of Canada’s most powerful lobbyists, this is an opportunity for local businesses to have their issues heard and acted upon at the highest level. Our resolutions recommended that the Government of Canada adopt a Creative Commons license for its open data policy, and then encourage or even require lower-tier governments to adopt the same and embrace open data. Open data in Europe has created 75,000 direct jobs, saved governments 1.7 billion euros in cost-savings, and generated hundreds of billions of euros in economic activity in almost every industry and sector there is. We’re keen to see those benefits in Canada too. We also asked that the Labour Force Survey be expanded to include municipalities in its monthly report of unemployment, employment rates, hours worked, and so forth. Currently, this data is only available at the regional level, and this is really holding back decision-making both in business and government. Local data would let us better target our social programs, meaning more efficient use of tax dollars, and would help businesses make decisions related to their workforces.
The Government of Ontario is pressing forward with its labour reforms, including a rise in minimum wage to $14/hr starting January 1st, 2018, and to $15/hr on January 1st, 2019. As our previous work has noted, we are concerned about the lack of analysis and data that went into this decision – particularly when the Government of Ontario’s 2014 study predicted that a minimum wage increase such as this would have a big and negative impact on youth employment, women, immigrants, recent graduates, and permanent, full-time minimum-wage workers. At the GNCC, we firmly believe in evidence-based policy that takes a rational approach to ensuring economic prosperity, and we’re not seeing that part of the picture here. We’ve been working hard on this file with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, with local MPPs, and raising awareness of the issue in the media.
Policy and Government Relations Manager